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ISPs say they can’t monitor underage use of social networks in India

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have informed the government that it cannot find out whether a person accessing social networks is under age or not, reports The Hindu BusinessLine.

The ISPs were responding to an order by Delhi High Court asking ISPs to stop those who are under 13 from accessing social networks. Internet companies were also asked to appoint grievance officers to take notice of complaints in this regard.

A representative of the Internet Service Providers industry told the publication that only social networking companies can implement such an order. However, the government agencies allegedly told ISPs to approach the court if they cannot implement the order. It needs to be noted that the Delhi High Court had asked Facebook and Google to file suggestions on how minors can be protected online in India last year.

The government cannot issue an order to these social networking sites since they are not governed by Indian law. That being the case, Facebook currently only allows users above 13 years of age to register on its website, and this is because the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the US requires web sites to give special treatment to minors under 13 years of age. Similarly, in Spain and South Korea, Facebook doesn’t allow minors under 14, however, it does not take into account Indian laws that forbid minors below 18 to register on social networking sites.

It is not clear why the government and the court believes the ISPs can find and stop use of social networks by the underaged. It is an issue that parents should have to deal with based on their choice, because in several cases these accounts are created with the consent of parents.

Social Networking Sites and Indian Government

In 2011, Indian government had asked ISPs and sites like Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to “pre-screen” user generated content from India. Facebook had however responded that it intends to keep Facebook as a free and neutral platform where people can discuss thing freely and it already has policies and on-site features that enable people to report abusive content. Google had also responded that the company will continue to remove content only if it is illegal or breaks its terms of service.

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